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Tue, 10.11.1988

America’s Black LGBT community, a brief story

*On this date in 1988, the Black LGBT community in America is affirmed.  Black LGBT people are both part of African America overall and the LGBT culture overall.  

This date was chosen because its National Coming Out Day.  LGBT (also seen as LGBTQ) stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and/or queer. The overall LGBT community received societal recognition after the Stonewall Riots in 1969. The Stonewall riots brought domestic and global attention to the lesbian and gay community. Proceeding Stonewall, Romer v. Evans vastly impacted the trajectory of the LGBT community. Ruling in favor of Romer, Justice Kennedy asserted in the case commentary that Colorado's state constitutional amendment "bore no purpose other than to burden LGB persons". Advancements in public policy, social discourse, and public knowledge have assisted in the progression and coming out of many LGBT individuals.

Statistics show an increase in accepting attitudes towards lesbians and gays among general society. A Gallup survey shows that acceptance rates went from 38% in 1992 to 52% in 2001.  However, when looking at the LGBT community through a racial lens, the Black community lacks many of these advances.  Research and studies are limited for the Black LGBT community due to resistance towards coming out, as well as a lack of responses in surveys and research studies. The coming out rate of Blacks is less than whites as they are often further marginalized within their own community.  Surveys and research have shown that 80% of Blacks say gays and lesbians endure discrimination compared to the 61% of whites. Black members of the LGBT community are often seen as the "other" due to their race and their sexuality, making them targets from whites and Blacks.  

Black trans-woman Lucy Hicks Anderson, born Tobias Lawson in 1886 worked as a domestic worker as a teenager, eventually becoming a socialite and madame in Oxnard, California during the 1920s and 1930s. In 1945, she was tried in Ventura County for perjury and fraud for receiving spousal allotments from the military, as her dressing and presenting as a woman was considered masquerading. She lost this case but avoided a lengthy jail sentence, only to be tried again by the federal government shortly thereafter. She too lost this case and she and her husband were sentenced to jail time. After serving their sentences, Lucy and her then husband, Ruben Anderson, relocated to Los Angeles, where they lived quietly until her death in 1954.  

During the Harlem Renaissance, a subculture of LGBTQ African-American artists and entertainers emerged, including people like Alain Locke, Countee CullenLangston HughesClaude McKayWallace Thurman, Richard Bruce NugentBessie SmithMa RaineyMoms Mabley, Mabel Hampton, Alberta Hunter, and Gladys Bentley. Places like Savoy Ballroom and the Rockland Palace hosted drag-ball extravaganzas with prizes awarded for the best costumes. Langston Hughes depicted the balls as "spectacles of color". George Chauncey, author of Gay New York: Gender, Urban Culture, and the Making of the Gay Male World, 1890-1940, wrote that during this period "perhaps nowhere were more men willing to venture out in public in drag than in Harlem".  During the first night of the Stonewall riots, LGBTQ Blacks and Latinos likely were the largest percentage of the protestors, because those groups heavily frequented the bar. Homeless Black and Latino LGBTQ youth and young adults who slept in nearby Christopher Park were likely among the protestors as well.

On June 15, 2020, the Supreme Court ruled in Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects employees from discrimination based on their sexual orientation and gender identity. The ruling was only on employment, like ENDA. LGBT rights advocates welcomed the ruling and called on Congress to pass the Equality Act, noting that as of 2020, 29 states do not have the full protections the Equality Act would provide for the LGBT community. As of the 2010 consensus is 14,129,983 people.  Out of that, it is estimated that 4.60 percent of the Black population identify as LGBT. Economically, statistically show Black LGBT individuals are more likely to be unemployed than non-Blacks. According to the Williams Institute, the vast difference lies in the survey responses of “not in workforce” from different populations geographically.

Black LGBT individuals, nonetheless, face the dilemma of marginalization in the job market. As of 2013, same-sex couples' income is lower than those in heterosexual relationships with an average of $25,000 income. For opposite-sex couples, statistics show a $1,700 increase. Analyzing economic disparities on an intersectionality level (gender and race), the Black man is likely to receive a higher income than a woman. For men, statistics shows approximately a $3,000 increase from the average income for all Black LGBT identified individuals, and a $6,000 increase in salary for same-sex male couples. Female same-sex couples receive $3,000 less than the average income for all Black LGBT individuals and approximately $6,000 less than their male counterparts. The income disparity among Black LGBT families affects the lives of their dependents, contributing to poverty rates. Children growing up in low-income households are more likely to remain in the poverty cycle. Due to economic disparities in the black LGBT community, 32% of children raised by gay black men are in poverty. However, only 13% of children raised by heterosexual Black parents are in poverty and only 7% for white heterosexual parents. 

One of the greatest concerns in the Black LGBT community is sexually transmitted diseases, and one of the greatest STDs affecting the Black community is HIV/AIDS. Black people account for 44% of new HIV infections in both adults and adolescents. Black women account for 29% of new HIV infections. For black LGBT male-identified individuals, 70% of the population accounts for new HIV infections for both adults and adolescents. The rates of HIV for black LGBT men are higher than their non-black counterparts.  One of the major factors that contributes to higher rates of STDs like HIV/AIDS is lack of medical access. Rather than a high prevalence of unsafe sex, it is caused by a limited supply of antiretroviral therapy in non-white communities.  

In the 21st century, Black LGBT culture has been depicted in films such as Patrick Ian Polk's Noah's Arc and PunksPariah, and Barry Jenkins' Moonlight, which not only has the main character as a gay Black but is written by a Black person and is based on a play by Black gay playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney.  In 2018, the TV show Pose premiered, which is the first to feature a predominately people of color LGBT cast on a mainstream channel.

Reference:

HRC.org

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